Read what CAT's current Long Term Volunteers have to say:
CAT’s Long Term Volunteers (LTV’s) are vital to the running of the centre. Below are interviews with some of the current LTV’s who have been volunteering with us over the cold winter months.
Displays Volunteer (October 2009 to April 2010)
I was studying for a Graphic Design BA in Dublin.
I design signage for the new layout, then I print it and install it on the visitor circuit. I also do some maintenance, but mainly graphic design in the office - where it is warmer! There are two displays volunteers. The other volunteer mainly does hands-on work outside but we also swap over. It's been a good time to start because there have been lots of changes with the re-branding of CAT.
I didn’t know what to expect from the trial week. I stayed on site and the community meal was very welcoming. Now I am living in Machynlleth, which is a good option for me. There’s lots of people living nearby and lots going on.
I did the Sustainable Home course, and found it really interesting. It was aimed more at building a house, but it gave a good overview that will be more useful to me in the future.
What has inspired me:
You learn a lot about the people here, what motivates them, and what you are capable of.
You have to be quite flexible. The role is good for an overview of CAT, as there’s lots of different things to do. It's good to find your area of responsibility early on so that you have a project of your own to get on with and something you can build on.
I’d like to do more travelling and volunteering. But I know I want to work for an organisation that I care about. Working in graphics it’s important to be communicating a message you agree with.
Biology Volunteer (September 2009 to February 2010)
I studied for an Earth Science MSc in Manchester and before that an Environmental Science BSc in Nottingham. Then I worked for the Environment Agency in the Science department on a research project to do with contaminated land, the pollution of ground water and surface water. We worked a lot with GAS, Graphic All Information systems, that map special data. I saw this voluntary placement as a career change. I wanted to get outdoors, get some hands on work experience as opposed to always being desk based.
Main Responsibilities and Projects:
I mainly work on the woodland side of things, the other biology volunteer works on the water side. Each Monday morning we check the compost and the reed-beds, which is really interesting. Then I either work in the CAT woodland, Coed Gwern, or in the coppicing area on site; clearing bracken; coppicing; sorting products for use such as firewood, charcoal and pea sticks. We are currently surveying the woodland using a GPS to work out the pathways and decide what to do with the different areas depending on the tree species. I also take soil samples for their pH and structure, as different species need different soil types.
Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, it's very different to how I’ve worked before, its relaxed and flexible.
I did a really good coppicing course instructed by Bob Shaw.
What has inspired me:
I’ve learnt lots of hands on skills from people who are multi skilled rather than just good at reading books. It’s different seasonally, you see everything die off, then you spend time getting things cleared, preparing for spring. I enjoy coppicing -cutting back, till it looks like a bomb has hit it then letting it to grow.
The woodland is a new area for me. I really enjoy working with the land.
Make the most of where you are and get involved. Also bring a warm sleeping bag, and learn how to cook veggie food! If you want to see a lot of people you can, or if you like it quite it's nice living on site, there are walks from your door-step and it would be a great place to be in the summer if you are into cycling.
I’ve been using this as a career change to get into conservation that is hard without experience. I’d like to be able to grow my own vegetables and keep doing things that are hands on. But first I’m going to go touring by bike, and maybe some more volunteering.
Engineering Volunteer (September 2009 to February 2010)
I studied for an Environmental Engineering Meng in Cardiff. Then worked in a big company that made me sure I didn’t want to work for people who didn’t really care about the environment and thought I was a bit wacky and idealistic. I visited CAT with a student run charity Engineering Without Borders. Then came for a Short Term Volunteer week and worked mostly in gardening, in the Information department and some with Engineering. Then I came for my trial week where I made an enclosure for the wood chip that’s still here.
Main Responsibilities and projects:
Each morning I fill the woodchip boiler, light it and check it over. I check the level of the reservoir, turn on the hydro turbines and check the heat and electric meter readings to see what we are using and generating. I’ve also been building a rig for the display hydro turbine out of scaffolding to use by the courses department. I help out with some glamorous and some non-glamorous things. The department is really fun, communal and quite flexible.
It’s not totally co-operative in every way. There is an established form of hierarchy because its how we are conditioned but its nice to see it. People seem to like their jobs, everyone’s interesting and at the stage where they know what they want to do.
I did a short course as part of the Renewable Energy in the Built Environment MSc, it was very intense and interesting. I’m going to do the wind turbine course when I’ve finished and would like to do more.
What has inspired me:
During the induction week I was the most impressed about climate science that I have ever felt. You get to learn about each area of CAT, and about the Zero Carbon Britain report.
Everyone is busy everyday keeping everything working; so don’t be afraid to speak up about what you're interested in.
I am keen to stay on the ethical engineering route and I’m looking for jobs around here in renewable energy.
Display Gardens Volunteer (September 2009 to February 2010)
I have a BA in Illustration. I had mainly creative experience, which is really useful in the winter months for landscaping work. I also had some practical experience from volunteering with Forest School Camps, a children's charity doing skills based learning. But I had little to no gardening experience when I started.
I look after two beds in the polytunnel, some organic veg and composting. It’s been the steepest learning curve for me. I also look after the visitor centre beds and the general ticking over of the display gardens. I work one day a week with each of the employed staff: With Chloe it’s more a traditional gardening role. We also do fruit training as she is fruit expert, winter pruning and growing veg; With Angela I do some gardening, but more decorative work, like landscaping which I’ve loved as it's really hands on. The difference I’ve seen in the areas we’ve tackled is extreme. First it's full of brambles, then it gets cleared and levelled, then you build stone walls and its ready for planting. It’s been great to see the fruits of your labour.
I really enjoy how much of a community there is, and the communal nature of us all eating together so that you have that time to communicate and transfer interdisciplinary work, I think this could be developed more. As a display garden volunteer you spend a lot of time working on your own so you have to be quite independent and decisive but the support is always there if you need it.
I did an amazing coppicing course, and would really like to do the woodland management course.
What has inspired me:
I knew I was a relatively practical person but the work I’ve done here has allowed me to take those skills home, external to CAT, and have the confidence to use them. I’ve done so much creative stuff with vision for the next few years restructuring, building walls and arches, giving defining to areas of the site to change and make it more accessible, and beneficial to the visitors. Its also nice to know who your audience is. This is the visitor circuit, that’s how CAT started, by inviting a few people to come and see what they were doing here.
I’ve really learnt a lot and loved it, and felt supported but it's important to take it as it comes -it is hard work. I really like the positive mental attitude here - you know you're going to get a bit wet but you have a really good time with the people that you work with.
You can't be bored outside, if you're bored you're cold. if you're cold you dig!
I have completely changed direction. I didn’t really know what I came for except more hands on experience. I’d like to do more work in woodlands. I’ve made some contacts with the local forest school and I’ve become heavily involved in a food waste campaign called This is Rubbish with people I have met here. I am also doing some work in the CAT straw bale theatre with young people over the holidays.
The CAT staff and volunteers really believe in what they are doing- something you don’t find in many work places. It’s a really inspiring place. A springboard for so many people in so many ways, that’s why so many volunteers wish they could stay.